Shooting for the stars, on Linux

Oct 21, 2021

Shooting for the stars, on Linux

Once a year, Boxfusion hosts the annual Graduate Competition, where we invite coders from around the country to submit a homemade solution to a social problem within South Africa. Very often, these young and enthusiastic coders leverage the power of open-source software to complete their projects and submissions.

The handy thing about open-source software is that it allows coders and developers to tap into a greater wealth of knowledge when creating their solutions. Essentially, any software that emerges from GitHub-type platforms is a team effort. This kind of collaboration does not only allow for sharing of knowledge, but also assists with finding holes within and creating patches for a project.

This feedback loop also serves to streamline the maintenance of solutions developed in this way, while reducing the cost and allowing such software to be easily reused or pivoted to a different purpose. It’s a win-win situation.

To infinity, and beyond

It’s no surprise then that NASA has begun to leverage the power of open software for the purposes of space exploration. Navigating the final frontier is an exercise that can cost billions of dollars; turning to open-source software can vastly reduce NASA’sinter-planetary exploration running costs.

While this may seem like a futuristic concept, NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, which is currently exploring the Red Planet and transmitting pictures back to Earth, was built, in part, through open-source software. So much so that open-source platform GitHub, where a lot of the coding was generated has recognised those who contributed to the project. Some coders were not even aware that this was what they were working on until GitHub presented them with a virtual badge of honour.

This amazing feat ensures that Ingenuity (run on what is known as “F Prime” open-source software) can handle gravity three times as heavy as Earth’s, with air much thinner, while also ensuring that environmental factors (cold interstellar nights, for example) don’t affect this ambitious little robot.

Bringing it home

While navigating the South African public sector is not quite the same as getting a robot into outer space, it does come with its own measure of complexity considering the number of actors involved, the myriad departments, users, unique processes and particular challenge each arm of government faces.

The benefits of using open-source software is that it allows for a streamlined approach to developing solutions and rapid deployment of those solutions or fixes. It is a reusable, cost-effective tool in the tookit of developers.

At Boxfusion, we make use of our own internal “open-source” platform. Dubbed “Shesha”, it allows our developers to collaborate on various projects, help one another resolve issues and rapidly turn out solutions for our clients.

It is because of Shesha that we can also offer a competitive solution to expensive international software, when it comes to automating the public sector.

While we aren’t shooting for the stars (just yet), we are helping to transform the South African government, one module, and one solution, at a time.

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